Sue Bird is plenty busy these days, trying to guide the Seattle Storm to their fifth WNBA championship and getting set to chase her fifth Olympic gold medal as a member of Team USA. Along the way, the basketball great is throwing her support behind another tech gadget, making a pitch for smart home fitness trainer Tonal and investing in the startup.
A new 30-second ad from the brand (above) is set to air before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday. Bird is shown working out on Tonal’s digital weight system and in a voiceover says, “I’ve redefined my position, and what a champion looks like. So how do I keep changing the game for good? By raising the bar even higher.”
A brand ambassador for San Francisco-based Tonal, Bird also backs the company, which raised $250 million in a funding round earlier this year and passed the $1 billion unicorn status in valuation. Other athlete backers include New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald; tennis pro Maria Sharapova; and boxer Mike Tyson.
PREVIOUSLY: Sue Bird’s secrets: How the WNBA star uses tech to beat the competition
TechCrunch reported that, like other home fitness equipment makers, Tonal saw an explosion in demand and sales during the pandemic and is now dumping big money into marketing and brand awareness.
Bird, who at age 40 is the oldest player in the WNBA, previously told GeekWire that the revolution in sports tech that helps athletes train and recover better is a big reason for her career longevity. She’s played 17 seasons with the Storm.
“If it’s going to help you, if it’s going to elongate your career, you are an idiot if you don’t use it, why wouldn’t you use it?” Bird said of sports technology in 2017.
She called Tonal one of the best pieces of fitness equipment she’s ever used.
“I was immediately impressed by the technology’s ability to challenge me and push me to the next level with my strength training,” Bird said. “I’m excited to be a user, an investor, and a partner to a brand that I believe is pushing the boundaries on what’s possible in performance training.”
Bird previously invested in Seattle-based startup Vermouth, makers of a friend-based review app that was acquired by Valor Worldwide in February 2020. She also backed basketball training technology company Shoot 360 in a $2.25 million round in April and is an investor in artificial intelligence company Diveplane.
In addition to the reveal of the new ad, Bird was also named this week as a flag bearer for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo games.
U.S. authorities say a Louisiana woman who was honeymooning in Hawaii has been fined $500 after a social media video showed her touching an endangered Hawaiian monk seal
ByThe Associated Press
July 30, 2021, 5:33 AM
• 2 min read
HONOLULU — A woman from Louisiana who was honeymooning in Hawaii has been fined $500 after a social media video showed her touching an endangered Hawaiian monk seal, U.S. authorities said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched an investigation last month and found the woman violated the Endangered Species Act, said Dominic Andrews, a spokesperson for the agency’s Office of Law Enforcement.
A video posted on TikTok and other social media showed a woman touching the seal at a Kauai beach in June. The video showed her running away after the seal snapped at her, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.
The Associated Press wasn’t immediately able to reach the couple Thursday. The couple previously apologized and told the Star-Advertiser earlier this month that they love Hawaii and didn’t mean to offend anyone.
There are an estimated 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and 300 in the main Hawaiian Islands.
Under state and federal laws, it’s a felony to touch or harass a Hawaiian monk seal. Penalties can include up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Authorities warn people must remain at least 50 feet (15 meters) away from the animals or 150 feet (45 meters) away from pups with their mothers.
NOAA also fined another traveler $500 for touching a resting Hawaiian monk seal. It is unclear when that encountered occurred, but an Instagram account shows the visitor recently visited Oahu in May, the newspaper reported.
Sport Climbing is about to make its long awaited (by me) debut at the Tokyo Olympics. We’re extremely excited.
Regular old rock climbing has been around since — well, since the first time someone tried to climb something rocky. But modern recreational climbing started in the 19th century, with sport climbing only emerging in the 1970s and ’80s.
In the Olympics, climbing will take place on engineered or indoor routes. They practice in pursuit of physical perfection and strategy as opposed to vertical height.
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Rock climbing has evolved as a catch-all term for many different sports, including everything from free soloing to bouldering. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about sport climbing at the 2020 Olympics.
When to watch climbing at the Tokyo Olympics
The Olympic master schedule has already been released, with sport climbing qualifying events on Aug. 3 and 4.
Here’s the breakdown for the men…
Qualifiers for men’s speed climbing take place August 3 at 4 a.m. EDT (1 a.m. PDT).
Qualifiers for men’s bouldering takes place August 3 at 5 a.m. EDT (2 a.m. PDT).
Qualifiers for men’s lead climbing takes place August 3 at 8 a.m. EDT (5 a.m. PDT).
And for the women…
Qualifiers for women’s speed climbing take place August 4 at 4 a.m. EDT (1 a.m. PDT).
Qualifiers for women’s bouldering takes place August 4 at 5 a.m. EDT (2 a.m. PDT).
Qualifiers for women’s lead climbing takes place August 4 at 8 a.m. EDT (5 a.m. PDT).
The finals will be on Aug. 5 and 6. In the US, NBC will broadcast events, with the BBC securing rights in England and Channel Seven, 7Mate and 7Two in Australia. All events will take place at the Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo.
How climbing works at the Olympics
Sport climbing will be broken up into three separate disciplines: speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering. Not every country will be represented; only 20 athletes per gender (40 climbers total) will be allowed to compete at the Games, and only 2 athletes per gender per country will compete in any given event.
FYI, the International Olympic Committee currently recognizes only two genders — female and male. There are currently stipulations for athletes that identify as transgender, both female and male, to compete. But there aren’t any guidelines or rulings for athletes who don’t identify as female or male — including those who are nonbinary, agender and genderqueer.
The combined nature of climbing at the Olympics has been somewhat controversial. Speed climbing requires a completely different skillset compared to bouldering and lead climbing. In the next Olympics speed climbing is being broken out as a separate event, leaving bouldering and lead climbing as a combined event.
Speed climbing is relatively simple: there are two climbers with safety ropes and one 15-meter wall set at a 95-degree angle. The climbers race against each other to get to the top, with the fastest one winning. The speed route is the exact same at all times: the same holds in the same position at the exact same angle. The addition of speed climbing has been somewhat controversial in the climbing community, because it requires a completely different skillset compared to other climbing disciplines.
Bouldering takes place on an shorter wall, where climbers take turns attempting to scale as many routes on a four-meter-tall wall in 4 minutes. Each route (also called a bouldering problem) is laid out with hand and foot holds in a specific color, and they vary in difficulty based on the size of the holds and the way they are spaced out. A climber completes a problem by grabbing the top hold with both hands.
Bouldering has traditionally been about power and finger strength, but recently competition route setters have been creating problems that require delicate co-ordination and explosive gymnastic movements. This one will be fun to watch.
Lead climbing is arguably the most recognizable of the three events. The climber has six minutes to climb as high on a wall that is taller than 15 meters. They use safety ropes that attach to quickdraws on their way up, allowing the rope to run freely while they stay anchored to the wall. If two athletes reach the same point on the wall, the person who got there first is the winner.
In both bouldering and lead climbing, climbers are not allowed to practice climbing on the routes before they compete or watch each other scale the wall, and they only have a couple of minutes to study the routes and decide their strategy before the timer begins.
If you thought the qualifying system was a bit complicated, take a deep breath. There’s only one set of medals awarded per gender, so all three events will go into determining which country gets the gold, silver and bronze.
The speed climbing discipline will be done in a bracket format, with athletes competing head to head, while bouldering is in a leaderboard format. Lead climbing will have a point system in which each hold on the wall counts as one point and the athlete who climbs the highest will obtain the highest score.
Once all the athletes are ordered by placement per event, their placement numbers will be multiplied, and the climbers with the lowest scores will win medals. Because of the scoring format, each climber will compete in each event. For example, if an athlete gets second place in speed climbing, third in bouldering and first in lead climbing their overall score would be six (2 times 3 times 1 equals 6).
More than 1,500 workers for the video game maker Activision Blizzard walked out from their jobs this week. Thousands signed a letter rebuking their employer. And even as the chief executive apologized, current and former employees said they would not stop raising a ruckus.
Shay Stein, who used to work at Activision, said it was “heartbreaking.” Lisa Welch, a former vice president, said she felt “profound disappointment.” Others took to Twitter or waved signs outside one of the company’s offices on Wednesday to share their anger.
Activision, known for its hugely popular Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and StarCraft gaming franchises, has been thrown into an uproar over workplace behavior issues. The upheaval stems from an explosive lawsuit that California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed on July 20, accusing the $65 billion company of fostering a “frat boy workplace culture” in which men joked about rape and women were routinely harassed and paid less than their male colleagues.
Activision publicly criticized the agency’s two-year investigation and allegations as “irresponsible behavior from unaccountable state bureaucrats.” But its dismissive tone angered employees, who called out the company for trying to sweep away what they said were heinous problems that had been ignored for too long.
The intense reaction was unusual. Of all the industries that have faced sexism charges in recent years — including Hollywood, restaurants and the media — the male-dominated video game sector has long stood out for its openly toxic behavior and lack of change. In 2014, feminist critics of the industry faced death threats in what became known as Gamergate. Executives at the gaming companies Riot Games and Ubisoft have also been accused of misconduct.
Now the actions at Activision may signal a new phase, where a critical mass of the industry’s own workers are indicating they will no longer tolerate such behavior.
“This could mean some real accountability for companies that aren’t taking care of their workers and are creating inequitable work environments where women and gender minorities are kept at the margins and abused,” said Carly Kocurek, an associate professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology who studies gender in gaming.
She said California’s lawsuit and the fallout at Activision were a “big deal” for an industry that had traditionally shrugged off claims of sexism and harassment. Other gaming companies are most likely watching the situation, she added, and considering whether they need to address their own cultures.
Bobby Kotick, Activision’s chief executive, apologized to employees on Tuesday, saying that the responses to the lawsuit were “tone deaf” and that a law firm would investigate the company’s policies.
Activision, based in Santa Monica, Calif., said in a statement for this article that it was committed “to long-lasting change, listening and continuing the important work to create a safe and inclusive workplace that we can all be proud of.”
In interviews, seven current and former Activision employees said egregious behavior had taken place at the company, up and down the hierarchy, for years. Three current employees declined to be named out of fear of retaliation. Their accounts of what happened at work largely align with what is laid out in the state lawsuit.
Ms. Stein, 28, who worked at Activision from 2014 to 2017 in a customer service role, helping gamers with problems and glitches, said she had consistently been paid less than her ex-boyfriend, who joined the company at the same time she did and performed the same work.
Ms. Stein said she had once declined drugs that her manager offered at a holiday party in 2014 or 2015, which soured their relationship and hampered her career. In 2016, a manager messaged her on Facebook, suggesting she must be into “some freaky stuff” and asking what type of pornography she watched. She said she had also overheard male colleagues joking that some women had their jobs only because they performed sexual favors for male superiors.
“It was really hurtful,” Ms. Stein said, adding that she felt like she had to “endure it.”
Ms. Welch, who joined Activision in 2011 as vice president of consumer strategy and insights, said she had known that the company was reputed to have a combative culture but had been intrigued by the prominent role.
Then at a hotel on a work trip that year, Ms. Welch said, an executive pressured her to have sex with him because she “deserved to have some fun” after her boyfriend had died weeks earlier. She said she had turned him down.
Other co-workers suggested she “hook up” with them, she said, and regularly commented on her appearance over the years. Ms. Welch, 52, also said she had been repeatedly passed over for promotions in favor of less qualified men.
She did not report the incidents, she said, partly because she did not want to admit to herself that her gender was a “professional liability” and she loved her work. But by 2016, she said, her doctor had persuaded her to leave because the stress was hurting her health.
Until the lawsuit came out, Ms. Welch said, she thought her experience was unique at the company. “To hear that it’s at this scale is just profoundly disappointing,” she said.
Addressing the former employees’ accusations, Activision said that “such conduct is abhorrent” and that it would investigate the claims. The company said it had distanced itself from its past and improved its culture in recent years.
California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which protects people from unlawful discrimination, said it did not comment on open investigations. But its lawsuit against Activision, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, also spared little detail. Many of the misconduct accusations focused on a division called Blizzard, which the company merged with through a deal with Vivendi Games in 2008.
The lawsuit accused Activision of being a “a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.” Employees engaged in “cube crawls” in which they got drunk and acted inappropriately toward women at work cubicles, the lawsuit said.
In one case, a female employee died by suicide during a business trip because of the sexual relationship she had been having with her male supervisor, the lawsuit said. Before her death, male colleagues had shared an explicit photo of the woman, according to the lawsuit.
When the lawsuit became public last week, Activision said it had worked to improve its culture but also moved to defend itself. It publicly said that the state agency had “rushed to file an inaccurate complaint” and that it was “sickened by the reprehensible conduct” of bringing up the suicide.
In an internal memo last week, Frances Townsend, Activision’s chief compliance officer, also called the suit “truly meritless and irresponsible.” Ms. Townsend’s memo was posted on Twitter.
Employees reacted furiously. An open letter addressed to Activision’s leaders calling for them to take the accusations more seriously and “demonstrate compassion” for victims attracted more than 3,000 signatures from current and former employees by Wednesday. The company has nearly 10,000 employees.
“We no longer trust that our leaders will place employee safety above their own interests,” the letter said, calling Ms. Townsend’s remarks “unacceptable.”
Organizers of the walkout, which was announced on Tuesday, also submitted a list of demands to executives. Those included ending mandatory arbitration clauses in worker contracts, hiring and promoting more diverse candidates, publishing salary data and allowing a third party to audit Activision’s reporting and human resources procedures.
On Tuesday, the company’s stock plunged. That same day, Activision told employees that they would be paid while attending the walkout. Mr. Kotick then apologized.
“I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding,” he said in a note to employees. “There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment of any kind.”
Mr. Kotick, who has been under fire for a $155 million pay package that makes him one of the country’s highest-paid executives, added that the company would beef up the team that investigated reported misconduct, fire managers who were found to have impeded investigations and remove in-game content that had been flagged as inappropriate.
Employees said it was not enough.
“We will not return to silence; we will not be placated by the same processes that led us to this point,” organizers of the walkout said in a public statement. They declined to be identified out of fear of reprisal.